Park City grocer will shun plastic bags regardless of Utah lawmakers
Mike Holm for a little more than 1 ½ years has had to explain Park City’s ban on razor-thin plastic bags.
Holm, the owner of The Market at Park City, said on Monday visitors to the community continue to ask for the plastic bags. They are easier to carry than paper bags, a plus for the visitors who want the convenience, he said.
“Hard. It’s been hard, because the people, tourists, still ask for plastic,” Holm said.
The Market at Park City is one of just three stores impacted by the City Hall ban. The others are Fresh Market and Rite Aid. The ban targets stores that sell groceries and have at least 12,000 square feet. The Park City ban was the first in the state and was unsuccessfully challenged by the state Legislature in 2018. The Legislature is again considering overturning the City Hall ban in the 2019 session, threatening the municipal rule for the second time in 12 months.
The Market at Park City, the only locally owned store impacted by the ban, serves numerous tourists as well as Park City-area customers. The visitors more than Parkites ask for plastic bags, Holm said. But in the time since the ban was enacted, the tourists have started to change their habits.
“They are adapting. They’re fine with paper. There’s some interesting conversation in the check stand,” Holm said, explaining that some customers are not accustomed to a ban like the one in Park City.
In the absence of plastic bags, The Market at Park City offers paper bags at a cost to the customer of 10 cents per bag. He said the store distributes approximately 2,000 paper bags per day with the 10 cent fee. Prior to ban, the store typically distributed 3,000 plastic bags each day, he said. Paper bags are more expensive than plastic ones on the wholesale level, influencing the store to charge the 10 cents per bag fee to recoup the cost. The 10 cents per bag covers the cost to the store.
“They’re not used to it yet. But they don’t care, either,” he said.
Holm said the City Hall ban on plastic bags swayed a small number of people to carry reusable bags, normally made of cloth. Prior to the ban, perhaps 15 percent of customers arrived at the store with reusable bags, he estimated. Since the ban took effect, the figure has risen to an estimated 20 percent, according to Holm.
The Park City Council enacted the ban on razor-thin plastic bags as part of City Hall’s broad environmental efforts. The plastic bags litter the community and end up in landfills, supporters of the ban argue. Some in the grocery industry remain concerned with costs as well as maintaining competitiveness in Park City since there is not a ban in surrounding Summit County.
The Legislature in 2018 debated a bill similar to the one under consideration this year. The bill last year cleared the Senate but was unsuccessful in the House of Representatives. The piece of legislation would overturn the City Hall ban, as last year’s bill would have, and prohibit other local governments from enacting similar bans. Rep. Michael McKell, a Republican from Spanish Fork, is the sponsor of the legislation this year.
There is concern at City Hall that the 2019 legislation has a better chance of passage than the bill in 2018. Rep. Tim Quinn, the Republican from Heber City whose district includes Park City, has said there are freshman legislators at the Statehouse and concern among the bill’s supporters about similar bans in other communities. Quinn opposes the bill but has said there is a better chance of passage in 2019. Holm said The Market at Park City would not return to plastic bags should the Legislature overturn the ban. He said people in Park City appreciate the ban
“We’ll respect what’s right for our area,” he said.
An attorney representing a critic of Park City’s plans to build restricted affordable housing in Old Town sent a letter urging officials to meet the same standards that would be required of a private-sector developer in the neighborhood.